by Alena Mae S. Flores – September 21, 2017 at 07:01 pm
Luzon faces tight power supply despite the completion of several generation plants, as robust economic activities led to higher demand especially during weekends.
Consumer group Citizen Watch on Thursday expressed concern over the series of ‘yellow alerts’ raised over Luzon in August to September despite the entry of new capacity.
Citizen Watch said Luzon experienced three yellow alerts following the forced outages of transmission and generation facilities, including two 600-megawatts plants, high-voltage transmission lines and Malaya 2, the grid’s security plant.
“This tightness in power supply means our grid is still vulnerable to power interruptions and outages,” CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Hannah Viola said in a statement.
Grid operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines declares a yellow alert when total reserves are less than the capacity of the largest plant online, which for the Luzon grid is 647 megawatts.
Citizen Watch said there were still yellow alerts despite the additional 1,125 MW of installed generating capacity in the Luzon grid from July 2016 to June 2017.
Viola said there was a drastic need for more power plants in the country. “In order to avert the possible unwanted consequences, Luzon is in dire need of new generation capacity which will provide reliable and stable power supply,” she said.
Demand in Luzon breached the 10,000-MW mark this year, supporting the country’s 6.5-percent economic growth in the second quarter.
Viola said a reliable and affordable power supply was an important component in assuring the country’s economic growth.
She said more power plants were urgently needed considering the demands of Duterte administration’s ambitious ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure agenda.
Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest electricity retailer, earlier expressed concern over the series of yellow alerts plaguing the Luzon grid.
Meralco vice president and head of utility economics Lawrence Fernandez said at the sidelines of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines forum that yellow alerts were even raised during Saturdays.
“We’re a bit concerned about that. Ever since Aug 30, there was once a week yellow alert. Of the past two Saturdays, there were yellow alerts,” Fernandez said.
National Grid placed the Luzon grid on yellow alert in three instances on Aug 30, Sept. 9 and Sept 16.
Fernandez said a yellow alert indicated that reserves were not enough to cover the largest running generating unit at the time.
“In the three instances, the yellow alerts were triggered by forced outages of several large generation facilities. In turn, these [at times] triggered the automatic load dropping scheme of Meralco,” Fernandez said.
“This meant that certain areas in Meralco experienced momentary interruptions to help the grid recover from the generation outages,” he said.
Fernandez attributed the yellow alert occurrence to high demand even during regular weekends and the forced outage of coal-fired power plants.
“Our concern, while so far it did not lead to red alert, when power plants trip, there is automatic load dropping, which means some of the customers lose electric service because of the tripping of some power plants,” he said.
Fernandez said while over 1,000 MW of power output was added last year, “the rise in demand is soaking up new capacity.”
“Which means we need more and more capacity to be built in the coming months. Reports, for example, that new unit in Quezon will be commissioned, that will help,” Fernandez said.
He said while power generation capacity increased last year, demand also soared.
“We were not expecting the growth in demand that we experience this year coming off from 2016 where was El Niño and election year,” he said.
“In the Meralco area alone, electricity consumption had grown almost 4 percent to-date. This despite having registered a robust growth of 8.1 percent in 2016 due to the effects of El Niño and elections-related spending,” Fernandez said.
He said Meralco’s interruptible load program participants were also advised to prepare for possible de-loading, in case the situation deteriorated.
“In the end, the ILP did not need to be activated in the three instances,” Fernandez said, but warned that yellow alerts and the triggering of the ALD mechanism signaled the need for additional capacity in the Luzon grid.
“As demand for power continues to increase, additional generation supply will be needed, both to meet new demand and to improve the reliability of the electric system,” Fernandez said.